Sunday, November 30, 2014

DRC Expressions of Gratitude

I am thankful for the run, it takes me to the places where I find myself. - Meg McCarrick

Running took on a new meaning for me this year. On March 7, my dad suffered a massive heart attack. (Ironically, I was on a run at the time; my husband had to track me down on my usual route.)  Eight months, four hospitalizations, a bout of congestive heart failure, a triple bypass and a defibrillator implantation later, Dad is on the mend, but considerably weaker than before.  On every run since then, I have taken time to be thankful for my good health and the ability to run, because I am so fortunate to have that physical ability when so many others don't.  - Jill Berron

I am grateful for the knowledge running has given me; two years ago, I didn't know when something felt "off" or wrong, but now with the strength I've gained, I know how my body should function and feel. It's awesome! - Rae Hedlund

2014 was the worst year of my life.

Everything I thought I was and thought I had, turned upside down when my marriage unexpectedly ended. Running gave me a way to meet some basic needs. A place to be. Time to think. Positive results. And enough exertion to be able to sleep at night. But within a few months, running gave me more than that. It led me to other runners… many in Daily Run Club, and a few more in other groups. Other runners who provided social interaction, and a friendly ear or word of advice. Other runners who lifted me and pointed me down the right path – figuratively and literally. Other runners who made me understand that I was in control of more than I thought I was… and at the same time, far less alone.2014 was the worst year of my life - briefly. But no more. Someday, I may even see 2014 as the best year of my life. And for the sport I love - and my running friends I love even more - I give thanks. - Frank Evans

I am thankful for so many things that running has given me:
1. Running has allowed me to accomplish so many things I never thought my body could endure 
2. Running has taken me on multiple adventures too see new states.
3. Running has brought wonderful people into my life who have become close friends...almost family! - Mackenzie Stallmann

I am thankful for running because it makes me feel so good about myself. Pushing myself to the limit & achieving goals are such an amazing feeling. 
Running makes me a better wife, mom & friend! - Jillian Van Leer

As I pondered on all of the things I am thankful for in regards to running (group runs, crunching leaves on fall days, the finish line of a race, etc) , what I realized is what I am really thankful for is running. I know it sounds so cliché, but I love that I can chose to go out and run. That I am healthy and can do what many people can't or don't do.  I am thankful that I can run !! - Shelly Weber

I am thankful for my running friends who will wake up at 3am
 just so I can run and get my miles in and I don't have to run alone! - Ximena Kriete

I have been running consistently for ~6 years and I learn something new about myself and running every year. Running is my escape. My escape from anger, sadness, worries, stress and life in general. For most of those 6 years, I was a solo runner- my dog has been my running partner for 3 of those 6- but since joining DRC I have made so many running friends and I am extremely grateful to this group for bringing them into my life. I also am thankful for those same friends for challenging me to run faster, harder and on different terrain. - Andrea Brueggemann

I am thankful that running gave me another way to work out, but mostly that it is an activity that my 13 year-old daughter, and now my 11 year-old son, have joined me in. We have fun at events together! Also for DRC for motivating me now that I'm not training for a race. - Bob Sander

I'm thankful that I am able to run with my son and that he loves to go for runs! And I'm also thankful for my running friends who push me to do distances I never thought I'd be able to do! - Tegan Schmidt

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why We Run

By Drew Beaty

It is a hot and humid Saturday morning, one best spent in a cool comfortable bed.  It's still an hour earlier than most people even consider moving on a day off. My mom comes in the room and wakes me just enough to get into the car.  I was 8. I remember this particular morning was extremely hot, which to me meant that my neon yellow Super Soaker 150 would be my tool of choice, so I filled it up with cold tap water.  Mom and I loaded into our baby blue diesel Tempo and set out in search of my dad.  He had been up hours ago lacing his worn out running shoes and wrapping his frozen Gatorade bottle with a towel and a rubber-band before heading out on a 20+ mile run.  A support car dropping off fresh supplies in the middle of a long road to nowhere in "small-town" Illinois was unusual. I didn't realize that then, I was too excited about using my Super Soaker to surprise attack dad with an impromptu cooling station!  This is how I remember many Saturday mornings growing up.

Before GU was a thought, when running shoes were nowhere near "gait-specific", and cotton was king fashion next to spandex, my dad was the ultimate ROAD RUNNER!  I can say with absolute distinction, my childhood was filled with uncommon memories thanks to his passion.  For instance, most would never get to see their dad melting the beard-cicles after a cold Indiana winter run.  

While my dad is no Dean Karnazes, whom we both got to meet during his run across the country, my dad has been the most consistent runner that I have ever known.  Knee problems (supported by mondo-braces), kidney stones (more than I know he wants to count), major and minor surgeries have all fallen in his path multiple times, but nothing has deterred his need to get in a good run.  While most would see any of those on the aforementioned list as a reason to give a good pause on running, I've seen my dad sneak out well before the doctor's approval.  You don't want to be the doctor foolish enough to tell my dad not to run.

Why does he run so much?  His usual response to anyone who asks that is "Because I want to!" or "Because I still can!", but I tend to think there is a deeper reason to it all.  My dad has been running for so long now that the act of running is a part of who he is, running isn't just something that he does for his health or to be prepared for the next race, it is as common to him as sleeping at night or brushing his teeth in the morning.  Think I went to deep there?  I've seen the look in his eye after a long (doctor forced) break from running, it's much like the look of an African lion patiently waiting, yet with full anticipation, while stalking prey.  

While I have your mental image in full focus, it's important to also acknowledge the supportive role that he has played in getting our entire family running.  I reluctantly joined him on some of the shorter runs when I was in grade school.  Still convinced that I didn't want to run, I never really did anything that could be considered "regular running".  That all transitioned in middle school when I got the wild idea that I was a sprinter and would be great at track.  Not missing a single beat, my dad jumped on board as my biggest fan!  All the way into high school he would be at every meet possible even volunteering to be a timer if needed just so he could be there and cheer.  As the distances that I raced got longer, he was there with off-season training plans to keep me moving.  Throughout my high school years, I'm a firm believer that my dad would have been the best track coach in the history of coaches.  He even helped coach my sister into running in the Chicago Marathon!  Not to mention my mom, who went from not running at all to now having just completed her 7th marathon all thanks to morning and afternoon "run-dates" with her main squeeze!  I can't imagine any of us having these experiences without his dedication and passion to running.

When my dad came to me with an idea to start a simple Facebook group with the sole purpose of getting others motivated to run, I was immediately on board.  It seemed simple enough, challenge people to run everyday from Thanksgiving to Christmas and see if it would create a habit.  The challenge then became a daily shout out about a workout or run, which garnered the attention of someone else wanting to get started, which sparked another's desire to get back into running.  I'm proud to be a part of something that has now grown to quite a large smathering of like-minded, sometimes a little "out-there" individuals!  The group runs and challenges have been met with enthusiasm that is absolutely contagious and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this fun little group!  But I can't read a single post and click the "like" button without being reminded that this is because my dad has stayed dedicated to running throughout his lifetime and my own to spread the joy that we get from running.  So, as we hit the 2 year mark, our most excellent DRC, I just want to say "Thank YOU" dad for everything!

Drew Beaty is a proud son and an occasional ultra runner.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cold Weather Running

 By Molly Derner

Running makes you weird.  Weird to family and friends, weird to people passing you on the street, weird to yourself.  It's ok. Once you are a "runner", you know it.  Because you are different.  You realize you have this thing, however you want to define it, that has become another priority in your life.  You find yourself creating space for this thing, at the expense of "free" time, work time, sometimes even family time.  You find yourself doing things that you never, ever thought you would do.  Like running in the dark, at the crack of dawn, in the rain, up HILLS.  And, in Missouri, running in the cold.

Meghan asked me to write about running through the winter.  She said something about thinking I was "hard core".  She couldn't be further from the truth.  I don't like to be cold.  At all.  My thermostat is set at 78, and I still have to have socks on. I pray for snow only on Saturdays so I can send my husband out to play with the kids while I huddle up inside with my coffee.  Also, I am a wimp.  I used to tell my husband, "I'm not a wuss-- I just HURT MORE than other people!".  His response: "No, you are a wuss".

So why do I run outside in the winter?  Because it's really not that bad.  There are three kinds of Missouri cold: cold, really cold and ass-cold.  Most of the time, we are just "cold".  Rarely do we actually get all the way to the dreaded "ass-cold" scenario.  I have run in all of these, and have never regretted going.  It doesn't always start that way, though. 

My usual winter routine is like this:  get dressed, stare at the thermometer, drop kids off at school, park the car somewhere... and stare at the thermometer.  It's too cold, I tell myself.  It's going to be awful.  I should just go home.  I wait, thinking maybe it will get one degree warmer.  I wait.  And wait.  Finally I drag myself out and hit the road.  I'm not going to lie-- when it's 4 degrees outside, you ARE going to be cold.  For the first mile, maybe two.  But then, if you have the right clothes on, you will be ok.  Some really good runs happen during the winter.  There can be advantages to not really feeling your legs!

Experiment with your clothes.  I found what works for me.  Cold (30-50)= long sleeves and capri tights.  Really Cold (10-30)= adding gloves and something to cover my ears, maybe a thicker long-sleeved shirt.  Ass-Cold (below 10)= all the above plus some kind of jacket and my old fleecy pants.  This year I am going to add sunglasses to shield my eyes from the wind.

Snow is ok if it's just snow.  I don't have Yak Tracks but will be getting some for this winter.  Watch out for the snow that has melted and re-frozen.  One deal-breaker: ice.  Don't do it.  If it's patchy and you can clearly see where it is, then slow down and take your chances, but beware that it really likes to hide on asphalt and sidewalks.  I alter my winter routes to avoid the highways if I think there is any chance of cars slipping around.  When it's icy, be safe.  Get on the treadmill and catch up on all that tv you've been missing out on.  It won't be long before you can get back out there.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing you will need for winter running:  download "Training Montage" from the Rocky IV soundtrack.  Don't even consider running without it.  
So get out there.  Be weird.  Wave your freak flag proudly.  And when people say, "You went out running in THIS weather?", you can say "yes".  And they will think you are hard-core.  And maybe you ARE.

Molly Derner is a member of Daily Run Club.  When she is not working or chauffeuring kids, she is running the streets of Washington, MO.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chasing Clouds

Ultra Race Report - My First Ultra, EC100
This is long, but so is a hundred miles, like a hill, get over it! 

By Jim Blair 

As I ran down the Santa Ana River Trail the sun was coming out, and I started to look at the clouds and more specifically their shadows. I looked forward to each shadow. I knew it would be a long day, and I needed as much shade as possible. I was 30 miles into my first hundred mile ultramarathon.  I had never seen the sun rise, set and then rise again, without sleep. So from that point on, I was chasing clouds.

Disbelief over the completion of my first 100 Mile Ultramarathon 

How I Got Here:  
My good running friend, Mark, has volunteered at the EC100 several times in the past. When they created its little brother the EC50,  he was interested. We had talked about running an ultramarathon together and it was only a matter of time until we made the plunge into the world of ultra distance racing. We had already run an Ultra Ragnar Relay in the Rocky Mountains, how much harder could it be… I initially said no, it was just too close to my first Ironman in November. I didn’t want to risk getting injured and complicate an already difficult training and racing schedule. I agreed to pace him if he wanted. Through some peer pressure from my friends, I was talked into it… “Come on Jim, it will be fun…” Then, Mark convinced me to run the FULL Long Beach Marathon the weekend before solely because it was the 30th Anniversary. We were both going "legacy" this year and the medal was bigger.  Yeah, I’m a sucker and have a “Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO).
The EC50 & 100 are my hometown races. They start in Norco, California: a small rural town in the middle of the Southern California urban sprawl. We have horses, riding trails, country bars, and a very nice small town atmosphere; it’s a unique place to live, for sure. The races starts at the 100 Mile Club Headquarters, which is a school program that encourages kids to run 100 miles in a year. The EC100 follows the river trail from Norco to Huntington Beach 40 miles away and then along the coast before finishing at the Santa Monica Pier 101.6 miles away. 
Through a series of events, I became the only one to make it to the start line of the EC100. I’d originally signed up for the 50, but then later switched to the 100 mile ultra. Why in the world would I want to run a hundred miles? And as my first ultra??? I wanted to do an ultra for a few reasons. After my 7th marathon, I realized that I wanted something more. I’ve lost a lot of my speed, but have found a great endurance and feel like I can go forever. I wanted to see how far and how long I could go. After I started my ultra training plan, I realized that running a 50 mile ultra just didn't scare me... I would have been disappointed stopping at 50 miles watching all the other runners keep going… Plus… I really wanted a buckle for my first ultra, I have lots of medals… Buckles are typically only awarded for ultras 100 miles or longer. 
I followed my own custom-made training plan.  I merged together an ultramarathon and Ironman plan and adjusted for my crazy schedule. I also had a coach for a short time, but he was a very 'last minute' training planner and I wouldn’t know what my Monday workout was supposed to be until Sunday night. That didn't work for me, so I decided I had to go it alone.  
My travel was my biggest setback, but also a benefit to my overall training. I lost several cross-training opportunities to ride or swim. I did, however, trade 2 ½ hours of daily commuting time for actual running while away from home. It was common for me to get off work after a 12 hour day and go for a 12-20 mile night trail run on some awesome trails in the St. Louis area. I definitely made the most of what I could, while on travel. I found a couple of great running groups, but spent most of my time running alone and in the dark. 

Training Runs: 
The 100 Mile Club sponsored four training runs covering each part of the course. I participated in the first two runs and turned the second run into a 39 mile long training run. Due to extensive travel, that was my longest run prior to the ultra. I prioritized my family time when I was home, so I scrapped the remaining two training runs and ditched my 50 miler. I felt pretty confident with my nutrition, sweat rate testing, hydration, and overall time on my feet, so I tried not to worry too much about it. 
In September, I had two back-to-back Ragnar Relays. This is good and bad for preparing for an ultra. In addition to my normal weekly mileage and training, I typically choose the longest and hardest legs for these relays. You also run through the night on tired legs and without sleep. This was a huge benefit because I really felt at home running through the night when most runners are tired. At the Napa relay, I ran 27 miles at sub-nine minute race pace and then an additional ten miles pacing my wife through the heat, hills, and the night. The following weekend, Jeff and I went to Ragnar Adirondacks and once again I ran about 20 miles, this time at an eight-minute average pace. The next day I was back in St. Louis running trails and starting my taper. The results of my September effort were a superb fitness level, 184 miles of running (most ever) and the beginning of left heel pain. Satisfied with my fitness level, I decided to take two weeks off (minimal) running. I didn’t do any more serious running until the Long Beach Marathon six days before the ultra. Even then I was strictly pacing a friend at a very reasonable pace and specifically trying to go easy on my feet. My heel hurt from mile 2-20 and after that everything else began to hurt a little more and I got used to the pain. It was only then that I was satisfied that I could run a hundred miles like that… Yes, crazy…

Pre-Race Mental State and Confidence:
I never once thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t finish. I figured short of a real injury or being medically pulled from the course I would finish within the time limit. There was never any other option for me; I knew I was going to get it done. I’ve read enough to know what to expect, I’ve talked to other ultra runners, I’ve done long training runs, I like and embrace the pain and I was looking forward to pushing myself to this extreme! I spend a lot of time running alone.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book, Born to Run:
“Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.” ~Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race”
“Suffering is humbling. It pays to know how to get your butt kicked.”
“We've got a motto here-you're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”

The week before my race I was on travel once again. I took it really easy (no running) but did do some swimming and cross-training. I usually eat pretty healthy on travel, but I treated myself to a great night of sushi and drinks! I had a lot more down time that week than usual since I wasn’t running. I also quit drinking coffee that week. That makes caffeine on race day that much more effective, a nice trick I learned from a friend that really worked! I flew home the Friday afternoon before the race. I had so much logistics, packing, and planning to do for my crew that I didn’t even have time to worry about actually running a hundred miles…. around 10pm I finally got to relax. 

Race Morning: 
I got up around 5, it’s nice living less than ten minutes from the start! I ate a banana & peach, drank a full bottle of Skratch, got weighed, and then waited for the start with my family and friends.  I looked for other familiar faces in the crowd.  I found Pam, she was a 50 mile runner I met during the first training run.  This was her first ultra too.  It wasn’t until I heard “3… 2… " that I finally realized I was doing this, that I even felt my first bit of nerves. "1…. Go!!!”  

My Game Plan: 
I mentally broke down my race into eight sections all about a half-marathon length. I made it clear I didn’t want to know how many miles to the finish, I wanted each pacer to tell me their mileage, not mine.  I was very fortunate to talk six of my Ragnar teammates into be my pacers for this race. It would be kind of like a relay except that I’d be running the whole thing and they’d be trading off.  I was lucky to have one of them alongside me for the entire hundred miles! It really made me feel good to know my friends gave up their weekend to run with me. I think they really wanted to see Crazy Jim do this to. The first marathon went well with Dave and Michelle pacing me around an 11-12ish pace.  I came into the mile 28 aid station in about 5:40 and felt great!! What could go wrong? I got weighed and only lost 3 pounds! That was great news because it meant my nutrition and hydration strategy was working. I changed shorts, shoes, socks, then refueled and was gone in 5 minutes. I had planned for 15 and was ahead of schedule! 

My Simple Nutrition Plan: 
One Bottle of Skratch & one Lara Bar per hour and every 12.5 miles a piece of fruit and a coconut water. This was my formula for success during my 39 mile training run and common ultra direction is to eat as much and as early as possible during an ultra because you wouldn’t feel like eating later into the race. Well, this worked and it didn’t… About mile 35ish the sun came out, it got hot, my heart rate went up, I stopped digesting food as well, I got full, and then I got miserable very, very quickly, and much much earlier than expected. My poor wife, Tiffany, got to pace me those ten miles and watch me deteriorate from a happy runner to absolutely miserable during my first ultra.

By mile 40 when Mark took over pacing me, I was in trouble. The clouds were NOT providing.  I was getting overheated and just couldn’t eat any more. I could barely drink coconut water and had to abandon Skratch completely...too much sodium taste and it was making me sick to my stomach. I would have liked to puke but couldn’t. I was also worried that if I did I wouldn’t be able to re-hydrate. Coconut water, Salt Caps, COLD-plain water, and oranges were all I could take in from that point on. I begged Mark to “just talk to me” to get my mind off my issues and keep me going. At mile 46, halfway down Huntington Beach, my leg cramps started. I couldn’t run anymore, my legs would lock up and make me stumble if I did anything other than walk. My core hurt and was painful to the touch, which was a very unique feeling. I’m really thankful that I had spent a few months focusing on core exercises, otherwise I don’t think I could have endured that pain and may have quit. Mark helped stretch my legs and did a great job at keeping me moving. We refilled my bottles with ice cold water and I showered the upper half of my body at the showers on the beach boardwalk. Other than the quick shower and stretching I never stopped moving. When Pam and her daughter caught up to me I briefly got a second wind.  Familiar faces!  I attempted to run again. They were cruising at a sub-12 pace and I kept up with them for a few miles before I needed to slow down and run a more reasonable 13ish pace. After all, they were running the 50 and I wasn’t even half way done yet… 

Mile 50 Aid Station:  
I already knew I looked bad. I still knew I’d finish though. My biggest worry was how bad I looked might get me pulled from the race by the race director or my wife… As much as I tried, I wanted to look strong and I am sure I failed miserably.
Jeff’s account of the 50 mile aid station and our conversation sums it up pretty well: 
“You came hobbling in on wobbly legs: cramped, nauseous, shaking and feeling like chewed bubblegum.”
“You initially sat down for about 20 seconds then said 'get me up'.” --My legs had immediately locked up the moment I sat down so resting wouldn’t work.
"C'mon lets get you changed. Here drink this." --I don't want anything to drink.
“Do you want some of your Extreme Endurance pills?” --Sure, I'll have some endurance pills...
“Here” ---Ok gimme a coconut water-- "Atta boy"
I got weighed and only lost nine pounds. Not bad, that was encouraging to me despite my condition and not eating much for the last ten miles.  I changed clothes and shoes and then just hobbled around. Jeff gave me some anti-leg cramp pills and then rubbed calf cramp cream on my calves. It was pretty heated stuff. Then I found the massage table!
“5 minutes later I see you on the table face down getting your calves rubbed out grimacing in pain, gripping the legs of the table as the physical therapist made his run on your calves.”---It was incredibly painful but necessary.
“I took an opportunity to speak up because you were in bad shape; if you didn't make it to mile 75 or 80 I would've regretted not getting rougher on you soon. So, Is this what you wanted? Is this the pain you were hoping to feel? The test? You wanted this! Wanted to see what you were capable of…. Wanted to ache…. Wanted to feel exhaustion and pain….” ---I couldn’t look at him, I could barely keep my eyes open, I was in so much pain and he was right.
“Lift your head, don't try to ignore this! Remember every minute of it! Savor this spiking pain! You deserve this! You've earned this pain…. When you get up you can go earn the rest of it!” ---Thanks, Jeff.

One of my ultra friends had posted a brilliant quote a few days before the race:
“The perfect crew embodies two characteristics; care and indifference.
They must care enough about you to want you to achieve your goal.
And they must be indifferent to how much you suffer to do it.” - Laz

When I got up from the table, I was very cold from the sweat and massage cream and began shivering uncontrollably. Never before had I felt so cold. I couldn’t stop shaking and asked for a long sleeve shirt and for my crew to “Get me out of here!” I was freezing and needed to start moving. Kristie was up! My crew had seen a lot of “advice” I’d posted and they told her that she had to be Mrs. Jackson!
I give Kristie full credit for taking me from near death through the next 15+ miles. The course was very complicated AND poorly marked so we got lost twice! Luckily Mark and Rick happened to see us off course and were able to guide us back in real time. She pointed out every curb, bump, crack, light, and basically took care of everything I needed. She did a great job at keeping me focused on drinking and moving. She mastered tough love and was exactly what I needed for the next several hours.  I was force fed a single Uncrustable sandwich at mile 50 and barely could finish a second one over the next few hours. But, I was able to continue drinking coconut water and eating watermelon. I had to reassure my team that no matter how bad I looked or felt that I only needed 200 cal per hour and any more would make me sick. It was the truth too and thankfully they listened. 
Suddenly there was a loud scream!  A Pit-Bull just appeared 15 feet in front of us.  I’ve been bitten by a dog before while running and have almost always run with a knife since then. Ironically I gave my knife to Jeff to hold on to. Needless to say, we didn’t have it… I was trying to envision how to fight off this damn dog after running 70 miles and just wasn’t looking forward to it. Luckily Kristie screamed loud enough that it scared him as much as he scared us and he kept his distance. By the end of our run, I was feeling better! I was able to eat and drink, I was still able to move and run, AND I had a positive attitude. It was now late into the night and I was in my element! It was just like a long work day and long night run again. I have trained and prepared for this.

The Hill: 
So I’d heard from Mark and other runners that there was just one hill on this course and that it was late in the race. I was prepared for this mentally and since I liked to run hills I never worried too much about it. What I didn’t know is that it was over 2 miles long, up to 17% grade and the beginning of about 20 miles worth of rolling hills following the coast to Santa Monica. This was my own fault for not making the training runs or looking at the course profile.. A lot of walking, but I maintained a positive attitude and forward progress. Some of my pacers and crew cried and were in disbelief while driving the hills thinking about me running them that late in the race!

Electrocution (I'm familiar with it): 
Not too many people have been electrocuted as much as I have. Yeah between a career as a Navy electronics technician and an engineer it's happened, more often than I should admit. Late in the race simply waiving my arms to shake them out and relax my shoulders caused a sensation of electrocution from my fingertips through my shoulders. This is all I can compare it to… Imagine the feeling of several thousand watts of RF energy or hundreds of volts of electricity running through the body. It was probably caused by extreme fatigue and electrolyte imbalance, but I really have no idea. It was kind of cool that I pushed myself that far, but it really hurt too! Less than 25 miles to go…

Mile 75 Aid Station:  
My primary goal of sub 24 hours was long gone so I didn’t worry about time anymore. I spent almost 40 minutes there! At the weigh in I had actually gained 2 pounds back!!!! I was only 7 pounds down for the past 75 miles this was the last check that would have prevented me from finishing and I was thrilled to make weight. I was feeling sore and beat up but overall much better than I thought I would be considering this late stage of the race. I ate a small ham sandwich, a cup of chicken noodle soup and then set out for my last marathon.
At mile 78.31 I saw a rock that looked just like a cat’s head.  
Yes, it looked like a cat to me at mile 78.31. All I could think about was that my daughter Kellie, who loves animals and rocks would love to have this rock. So I picked it up and started to run with it.  Kristie hadn't seen the rock and must have thought I was nuts.  I decided pretty quickly I couldn’t run the rest of the race with a rock and I didn’t think she’d carry it for me.  So I set it in the middle of the bike lane. Don’t worry, it was only about 4 a.m. and there weren’t cyclists out yet. A few miles later, we saw Rick along the road I explained where my “cat” rock was and asked if he could please get it for me. Aren’t friends great! I was also getting disappointed because I wanted the whole 9 yards of the “ultra experience” and didn’t know where my hallucinations were…?? I wasn’t getting them yet. As the sun rose, we came down from the hills and made it to the beach. There was not a cloud in sight.  But, Santa Monica was!
Jeff took over at mile 83 and I had less than 18 miles to go. My secret goal in making him my last pacer was due to our long history together. I would turn myself inside out to make it to mile 83 and not disappoint or make him miss the opportunity of pacing me. We had a beautiful run / walk along the beach. My attitude remained good, my pace was not. The last 18 miles turned out to be 20 miles or more, I lost count.  I could only manage a 16-18 minute running pace and when I walked it was considerably slower. But, I kept moving forward! Mile by mile we got closer.

At 12:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, October 19th, 29 hours and 30 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line at the Santa Monica Pier. 
Happy, relieved, sore, tired, awake, hungry, not hungry, it's all a bit hazy, but I finished!
It said yesterday.... ;-). WTH, only a 3.1 Training Effect!?!?!
I had just run 105.31 miles and was the last official finisher of the EC100 under 30 hours. I had earned my first buckle in my very first ultra marathon! When I look back at this, 59 runners entered the race, 39 made it to the start line, and only 24 finished! I am in awe and amazed at my own accomplishment. I was also surprised at the attrition rate of runners that were far ahead of me yet Did Not Finish (DNF). 

I received lots of profound and encouraging advice along the way, but one thought that kept coming back to me during this race was compliments of Laura Range, a seasoned ultra runner in my St. Louis running community.  "It doesn't always get worse.  And, it's always worth it."

Lessons learned and cool statistics… I now know not to exceed 300 calories per hour for more than 10 hours… I burned 11,600 calories and ate less than half of that. My body is a machine! I also know it’s OK to ask for cold water and oranges if I’m dying and it is hot out… Next time I’ll try harder to really know the entire course and carry a printed map or map-my-run app. I am really glad I had multiple goals and could give up on one to save the others. After all, I finished!!! I finished with feet that were not swollen, no black toe nails, only one small blister, very minimal chafing, no blood or serious injuries and everything I worked hard to prepare and practice for worked!
I really want to thank my wife for letting me sign up for this crazy race. Unfortunately, it won’t be my last.  I am hooked! I had already signed up for another one before I ran this one, and have a few more on my calendar I am considering.  Running is my outlet for stress relief; it’s also where I can run with friends, be outside and see and experience new things. I can’t wait to get out there again! I want to thank my wonderful pacers, Dave, Michelle, Tiffany, Mark, Kristie, and Jeff. We were all ultra rookies and they took good care of me and delivered me to the finish line in one piece. Rick helped with driving and support along my run, as well as search and acquisition of my “cat” rock! Canesha also deserves special mention! She took my two kids for the duration, along with her twins, and they followed the race all night long. I am most proud that my children got to see their dad accomplish this crazy goal and adventure.

My Pacers:  Jeff, Michelle,Tiffany, Me, Mark, & Kristie

So, in the end, if you set your mind on your goals, find support in your friends and family and put in the necessary training where you can fit it, then you will more than chase the clouds.

California Jim has run coast to coast in search of epic races, bling, and running friends.  He hopes to inspire his two daughters Samantha and Kellie to love running as much as he does.

Photo Album

Canesha, Tiffany, Dave, Mark, Me, Michelle, Kayla, Hannah
Start Line
Dave and I - Mile 10 
Michelle and I - Mile 20 
Tiffany and I - Mile 30 
just before it got hot...
Mark and I - Mile 40  
Pam and I - Mile 50.  
She's finished!  I'm only half way...
Kristie and I - Mile 75
Kristie and I - Mile 80 
The Santa Monica Pier far off in the distance at sunrise
Jeff and I at Redondo Beach around mile 90.
Ed the Jester is one of the reasons this race is special.  
I've seen and met him at several marathons before.  
This was the first ultra that I got to run WITH him.
Yeah, I'm wearing my buckle!!
I've waited since February to put this sticker on my car!  
It's a daily reminder and exercise in patience.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why Trails?

We asked a few DRC runners the question, "Why Trails?"  It was great to read opinions about the importance of trails for decompression, challenge, humility and cross-training.  The one common thread in each, EVERYONE benefits from flirting at least a little with the trails!
Why Trails? Why not? The road is the road. Sure-- it's smooth, it's consistent, that old reliable friend that will always be there for you. But what about that OTHER friend? You know, that one that you always take some "bail money" when you go out with her? Because you just never know what's going to happen? That's the trail. Unpredictable. Maybe you will find a new path. Maybe you will see a deer. Maybe you will fall on your face. Maybe you will get a little bit lost. It probably won't go as planned, but that's kind of the point. Shake it up. When I am "trail running", I let go of mile splits and distance. I see things. I listen to different music, or none at all. I go out with my other friend. The road will always be there for me when I get back.          -Molly Derner

Why trails? I started trail running this past June with a group that was training for the Pikes Peak Marathon. I wasn’t running it, but I figured I could benefit from the group runs. Before that, all of my miles were logged on pavement. I enjoyed running, but I didn't really get hooked until I took it to the trails. I started hiking and backpacking several years ago, but it practically requires a 3 day weekend or more to plan a trip worthy of giving me my fix. Trail running is like a concentrated version of backpacking, only I get to cover more distance in a much shorter amount of time. There is nothing better than being out on the trails navigating the dirt, roots, and rocks. The more technical the trail the better. Just relax and find that mental space where the only thing you think about is your foot placement. To me, nothing is more freeing.          -Denzil Jennings

Why Trails?  There is something about a friendly jaunt on a familiar trail that can cure just about anything.  Regardless of season, we can find peace and comfort in the crunch of leaves, the squish of mud, and the freezing tingle of snow.  The trails are deliciously consistently inconsistent.  Rounding that blind corner, what might we encounter today?  Will it be a newly formed mud pit (aka shoe-eating swamp), two turtles "hugging", a beautiful (and territorial) ten-point buck, or a disguised copperhead sunning himself on the path (SNAKE?! There are NO snakes on MY trails!).  The obstacles on the trails mirror the obstacles in life ("Is that ice?" BAM "$%#@! Yup...that was ice.") and give us a tranquil setting to ponder life's most critical questions ("How many bananas is too many bananas?"  "Is there such thing as PB&J toxicity?").  Finisher medals are replaced with bruised knees, cougar-attacked calves, and skinned palms- all badges of honor that piece together unforgettable adventures with the most dedicated, determined, and passionate group of crazy people that you could ever be so lucky to get lost with.  Happy!          -Kristen Strange

Why trails? Good question. I would certainly have an easier time answering “Why not trails?” After all, I don’t fall on pavement. I don’t end up with black toenails, rolled ankles, cuts, bruises or scrapes. On pavement, I can see the finish before I get there, and I’ve never gotten lost while doing a paved run for the tenth time. I can’t say the same about trails. So, why trails? It’s really a question I can’t answer. For me, the attraction can’t be identified, quantified, or qualified. It just is. All I know is this - for every runner who runs a trail and disgustedly announces he’ll never do that again, there are ninety-nine who finish their first trail wondering how they had missed out on that exhilaration for so long and when they can come back. Somewhere in that collective experience lies the answer. You can try to identify it yourself, or you can just trust me… it’s there.          -Frank Evans

Why Trails?  Everyone has that “place” they go to when they just want to escape the world for a moment and just be. To just be in solitude. To just be free. To just exist in the most natural way that a human being can exist. For me, that place is in the woods. You could say that I’m a runner, but to be completely accurate, I am a TRAIL runner. There is no greater peace than when I am out amongst nature. Very little of the hustle and bustle of the world can find me when I lace up my shoes and hit the dirt. Those moments are my escape. It is when I feel the most alive: I am a wild animal who is free from work, free from deadlines, free from bills, free from stress.  Trail running is my passion, stress relief, and exercise all in one. Every trail run brings something new-- new sights, new smells, new obstacles, new experiences. These are the times that I truly feel alive and free. I am a TRAIL runner forever and always.          -Bethany Murray

Why Trails?  Since I laced my first pair of trail shoes (newly purchased at Shoe Carnival and barely meant for trails), I found myself in the folds of one of the most accepting groups of runners that I had ever been a part of.  The run previously focusing on time and pace had changed.  Gone were the need for mileage splits, gone were pretentious runners with elitist mentalities.  Mostly anyway.   Within a group of runners where one guy wore his own version of running sandals (fashioned after reading "Born to Run") and another whom we still swear can run through the ripples of time, there is a shared respect for anyone who steps foot onto the trail.  Races, only called a race for those who move like frolicking deer, are more like family reunions that start with thundering cheers from all the runners.  The end of these races are a celebration of the completion of a challenge.  These people are not strangers if you have met them on the trail, they are simply a new friend you need to get to know.  Just as the scenery is never the same, no run is either.  Seasons and weather conditions create a new template every run.  A road run with friends is great for company, but nothing can bring the same emotion as a trail.  I've slogged through 2 marathons and I hated the decision to run them with every step, but I've bound through 4 50k's with eager anticipation all thanks to the trails.  I would encourage anyone looking for their "inner runner" to take a drive to your local single-track trail and find out just how amazing the path-less-paved can be!         -Drew Beaty

Big Thank You to Molly Derner, Denzil Jennings, Kristen Strange, Frank Evans, 
Bethany Murray & Drew Beaty for your literary contributions!

Below is a list of area trails and corresponding websites.  

This Trail Key can also be found in the Group Files.  
North Side of River
KATY Trail:  237 miles across state, double track, gravel, flat, many access points, many scenic views and connections to other trails

Klondike Park:  ~ 6 miles with KATY trail access, multiple loops, asphalt, packed dirt, overlook

Matson Hill Trail:  2.5-7.4 miles with KATY access if you take the Matson Hill Road up to trail head, main trail loop feeds into secondary loop and out and back option, all trails are packed dirt or rock shelf with minimal roots, elevation change is gradual with clean forest floor and tall old growth trees

Weldon Springs
Lost Valley:  10.5 miles, loop with gravel service road, single track meadow, 2 sections of single track, gravel and packed dirt, connection to Hamburg Trail

Hamburg Trail:  3 miles Point to Point, double track gravel service road, connects the KATY Trail to Lost Valley

Lewis and Clark:  5.3 miles on Clark Trail or 8.2 for both Lewis and Clark loop, single track, gravel, packed dirt, some elevation gain, overlooks

East of Washmo
Shaw Nature Reserve: 14 miles, asphalt, double track gravel, single track, system of 3/4 mile trails and service roads with multiple scenic views and Meramec river access 

Greensfelder:  7.8 mile DeClue Point to Point, 2.6 mile Dogwood Valley Loop, 3.4 mile Eagle Valley Loop (3 main trails), several adjoining trails/service roads, almost entirely single track, switchbacks, elevation climbs, creek crossings, gravel and packed dirt paths

Rockwoods Reservation:  ~ 13 miles (4 small trails and a difficult climb to connecting Greensfelder on the Green Rock Trail), some paved, stairs, bridges, single track, gravel, rock shelf and packed dirt trail

Rockwoods Range: ~ 10 miles (4 trails), all difficult single track trail, gravel, rock, packed dirt, creek access, connectors to Greensfelder and Rockwoods Reservation

Missouri State Park
Al Foster Trail:  5.5 miles, point to point, crushed rock double track with multiple connectors

Zombie Road:  3 miles, point to point, paved or gravel double track

Bluff View:  2.5 miles, point to point, accessed from Al Foster, steady incline to overlook, packed dirt, roots, rocks

Chubb Trail:  6.5 miles, point to point, open spaces, single track and technical challenges

Stinging Nettle Trail:  2.5 miles, point to point, connects Al Foster along the Meramec to Sherman Beach 

Castlewood Loop: 3 miles, entire length in flood plain, river/farmland views
Cedar Bluff Loop: 2.25 miles, highest point in the park
Grotpeter Trail: 3.75 miles, challenging elevation changes 
Lone Wolf Trail: 1.5 miles, bluffs and drop offs next to river
River Scene Trail:  3.25 miles, grand staircase